How to claim unclaimed land

Written by bradley james bryant
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How to claim unclaimed land

Unclaimed property can be the result of a death in the family, a move, or perhaps simple abandonment. Every state has laws set aside for claiming property after a period of three to five years. While banks, insurance companies and other firms are required to attempt a return to the owners, they might be unsuccessful. If they are, the property is turned over to the state's abandoned land or property department. Some states have land dating back to the late 1800s.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Claim "virgin" unclaimed land. In theory, land that has never been claimed is up for grabs and can be claimed by anyone for ownership. The reality is that very little unclaimed land is good for settling or even reachable by human means. Mountain areas close to international borders are in dispute along with other uninhabited places. Territorial waters of any country extend 12 nautical miles (and beyond) from the land.

  2. 2

    Call or write the unclaimed property department in the state in which the property is located. A link to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is in Resources. It provides contact information by state for unclaimed "virgin" property and property that was once owned.

  3. 3

    Fill out an online form or speak to a representative. Be prepared to provide the office with your name (including maiden name and other names), Social Security number, and addresses (including all previous addresses where you lived in the state).

  4. 4

    Look for a form to fill out in the mail. If the office finds a match they will send a form. You must provide proof of ID (i.e., photocopy of driver's license), proof of residence (utility bill or tax return), and proof of property (any documentation proving connection between you and the property). It might take up to two months to receive the deed to property or cash in lieu of the value of the property.

  5. 5

    Contact the FHA (Fair Housing Act) Support Center at (800) 697-6967; the support centre is housed under HUD. HUD is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They have offices in each major urban area and can provide information on property resources in your local region. You can also go to the HUD search engine on the HUD website or write to HUD, Distributive Shares Branch, PO Box 23699, Washington, DC 20026. Questions about refunds may be e-mailed to

Tips and warnings

  • Do not pay a fee for someone to locate or find your property. They will only provide you with the same information the unclaimed office can find for you. Some of these "tracers" purchase lists from businesses to contact individuals before the office of unclaimed property office has a chance to. The normal charge is 10 to 20 per cent of the value of the land. A few states have even passed laws making it difficult to charge fees for unclaimed land.

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